What is Recording?

Recording Norfolk's Wildlife

One of the pleasures of observing wildlife is putting names to species we see. Once the second name is added a list has been created and while many people make lists for their own pleasure there is always satisfaction in telling someone else. And when lists come together the total picture is even more valuable than the individual records.

Amateurs have always been at the forefront of recording, but now more so than ever; they have the time, interest and knowledge – and there are a lot of us. The NNNS, through its publications and ‘networking’, informally coordinates much of the recording activity within the county.

What use are records?

  • Local reports (e.g. annual Norfolk Bird & Mammal Report)
  • Published distribution ‘atlases’ (e.g. Flora of Norfolk (1999), Gillian Beckett & Alec Bull)
  • Scientific studies (e.g. on global warming)
  • Red Data Books (not yet published for Norfolk but under consideration)
  • Environmental Impact Studies – required for almost any development
  • Development of action plans to protect vulnerable and endangered species.

What happens to the records?

For most groups of organisms there is someone in the county who acts as a County Recorder who should:

  • Carry out their own recording
  • Receive records from others
  • Store records for their ‘group’ on a database
  • Validate records (by following up anything clearly doubtful if possible)
  • Pass records on to the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service and to appropriate national schemes and databases.

The Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service is becoming the repository for all Norfolk wildlife records. It already has nearly 1 million records and realistic expansion plans should soon enable it to input and output records much more effectively.

What to record

It doesn’t have to be rare! Changes in the distribution and abundance of common species (eg. House Sparrow) can only be recognised if data is collected. It is best to consult County Recorders about this if in doubt. Please do not submit records from beyond Norfolk – most counties have their own recording network.

  • The essence of recording is accurate species identification – “if in doubt; leave it out”.
  • There is no value in submitting a record for a group of species, e.g. ladybird, newt – it has to be, for example, Two-spot Ladybird or Great-crested Newt.
  • Other essential information:
    • Place (name of site if appropriate; nearest town/village)
    • Grid Reference (at least 4-figure if possible)
    • Date

How to record

In most cases records should be sent to the appropriate County Recorder. Records for groups for which there is no Recorder should be sent to the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service. Please discuss with the appropriate Recorder how these are best submitted. For dragonflies specific recording forms can be downloaded from www.british-dragonflies.org.uk/ ; for some other groups recording forms are available on www.brc.ac.uk/record_cards.asp

Records for all mammals can be submitted on the Excel recording spreadsheet which can be downloaded and either printed out or filled in for emailing to the Mammal Recorder. Some other recorders will accept records in this form but please check first.

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust has launched a number of recording schemes, aimed at the public, as part of its Natural Connections programme.

Frequently asked questions

Can my records be used without my further permission?

Yes; they have little use unless they can enter the ‘public domain’. By submitting records in these ways you are accepting that they can be disseminated for conservation benefit, environmental decision-making, education and research and that your name forms part of the record.

Does this mean than someone can make money from my hard work?

Not in practice. The Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service can charge commercial organisations for information provided but this fee will only cover the administration costs of making records available. The NBIS makes no charge to individuals requesting information for research or study. County Recorders are encouraged to publish atlases and papers on distribution but these are rarely, if ever, commercially viable; in any case it is a courtesy to acknowledge contributors where these are known.

Do I need the landowner’s permission to submit records?

No – assuming they were obtained without breaking the law!

Might I be putting a recorded species at risk?

This is very unlikely. Very few organisms are vulnerable to direct harm or collecting and many more face much greater risk from destruction through ignorance. NBIS staff can withhold information if they suspect it will be misused and are able to ‘blur’ location data for vulnerable species. If you have any concern about this it would be best to discuss it with the appropriate County Recorder.

Can I request records from the NBIS?

Yes, in principle. The NBIS will always try to deal with individual requests but this is currently limited by staff resources. This should improve in the future and it should be increasingly possible for anyone to access distribution information through the Internet – but we are not there yet. In some cases County Recorders are willing and able to supply data. The NNNS is working to increase the number of published atlases of Norfolk wildlife.

For some groups (e.g. dragonflies) the National Biodiversity Network Gateway (www.searchnbn.net) makes detailed distribution data available. You will need to register but this is straightforward.

Contacting County Recorders

Most would prefer to be contacted via email where this is possible. If a postal reply is required enclose a s.a.e. but please remember that replying to enquiries can be time-consuming and that all Recorders are volunteers. Many are willing to answer Norfolk identification queries if they have time.